Namibia: Illegal Electricity Source of Power for Urban Poor

9 December 2019

Windhoek — Hundreds of informal settlement residents continue to connect their ramshackle dwellings with illegal and dangerous electricity cables for lighting, ironing and for fridges.

A resident of Havana informal settlement who requested anonymity said the need for electricity is the cause for this.

During a drive through the settlements of Havana, Ombili and Okahandja Park on Friday, this reporter spotted people fixing electricity cables soaked by Wednesday and Thursday's rainfall.

The electricity cables are slightly dug under the ground while others are left exposed, which is dangerous more so now that it is raining and the ground is wet.

Well aware of the dangers of connecting such cables, a 21-year-old resident of Havana instead asked for electricity provision to their area.

The young man who requested anonymity was standing along Zambia Street fixing soaked power cables that caused the electricity to go off on Thursday evening.

Asked if it is not dangerous fixing the cables, he replied: "You can get shocked. I have been shocked a lot of times but what can we do? Life is forcing us to get electricity."

He said they are not included in the City of Windhoek electrification project in the area hence stealing electricity through an acquaintance who lives about 500 meters away from their home. He told New Era they pay over a N$1 000 per month for connection but this comes with limitations, as they cannot use the stove to cook or iron. "We only use it for lighting the house, powering the fridge and television. We cook on the gas stove," said the youth.

In addition, he stated they want flushing toilets and clean drinking water in their yards.

Not far from him, a 48-year-old man was using a bulb to test if the wiring is live. "It is dangerous but if you know how to fix it, you will avoid been shocked," shared Fredrick Gamibeb. He said the cables are connected multiple times from one shack to another, and more dangerously, they should pull out the cable to see where the problem is.

Gamibeb expects to have roads and electricity provided to residents now that people have voted.

City Police Chief Abraham Kanime said a fine of obtaining the supply of electricity or taking it from a supply main other than by means of a service connection provided by council is N$2 000. Kanime said once the electricity cable is sealed with insulating tape, there is contact with water therefore one can easily be electrocuted. Once the soil is soaked with water, it is very dangerous, warned Kanime.

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